(Calvin, Institutes of the Christian Religion 4, part 10)
Chapter 9. Of councils and their authority. 
    Since Papists regard their Councils as expressing the sentiment 
and consent of the Church, particularly as regards the authority of 
declaring dogmas and the exposition of them, it was necessary to 
treat of Councils before proceeding to consider that part of 
ecclesiastical power which relates to doctrine. I. First, the 
authority of Councils in delivering dogmas is discussed, and it is 
shown that the Spirit of God is not so bound to the Pastors of the 
Church as opponents suppose. Their objections refuted, sec. 1-7. II. 
The errors, contradictions, and weaknesses, of certain Councils 
exposed. A refutation of the subterfuge, that those set over us are 
to be obeyed without distinction, sec. 8-12. III. Of the authority 
of Councils as regards the interpretation of Scripture, sec. 13,14. 
1. The true nature of Councils. 
2. Whence the authority of Councils is derived. What meant by 
    assembling in the name of Christ. 
3. Objection, that no truth remains in the Church if it be not in 
    Pastors and Councils. Answer, showing by passages from the Old 
    Testament that Pastors were often devoid of the spirit of 
    knowledge and truth. 
4. Passages from the New Testament showing that our times were to be 
    subject to the same evil. This confirmed by the example of 
    almost all ages. 
5. All not Pastors who pretend to be so. 
6. Objection, that General Councils represent the Church. Answer, 
    showing the absurdity of this objection from passages in the 
    Old Testament. 
7. Passages to the same effect from the New Testament. 
8. Councils have authority only in so far as accordant with 
    Scripture. Testimony of Augustine. Councils of Nice, 
    Constantinople, and Ephesus. Subsequent Councils more impure, 
    and to be received with limitation. 
9. Contradictory decisions of Councils. Those agreeing with divine 
    truth to be received. Those at variance with it to be rejected. 
    This confirmed by the example of the Council of Constantinople 
    and the Council of Nice; also of the Council of Chalcedony, and 
    second Council of Ephesus. 
10. Errors of purer Councils. Four causes of these errors. An 
    example from the Council of Nice. 
11. Another example from the Council of Chalcedony. The same errors 
    in Provincial Councils. 
12. Evasion of the Papists. Three answers. Conclusion of the 
    discussion as to the power of the Church in relation to 
13. Last part of the chapter. Power of the Church in interpreting 
    Scripture. From what source interpretation is to be derived. 
    Means of preserving unity in the Church. 
14. Impudent attempt of the Papists to establish their tyranny 
    refuted. Things at variance with Scripture sanctioned by their 
    Councils. Instance in the prohibition of marriage and communion 
    in both kinds. 
    1. Were I now to concede all that they ask concerning the 
Church, it would not greatly aid them in their object. For 
everything that is said of the Church they immediately transfer to 
councils, which, in their opinions represent the Church. Nay, when 
they contend so doggedly for the power of the Church, their only 
object is to devolve the whole which they extort on the Roman 
Pontiff and his conclave. Before I begin to discuss this question, 
two points must be briefly premised. First, though I mean to be more 
rigid in discussing this subject, it is not because I set less value 
than I ought on ancient councils. I venerate them from my heart, and 
would have all to hold them in due honour. But there must be some 
limitation, there must be nothing derogatory to Christ. Moreover it 
is the right of Christ to preside over all councils, and not share 
the honour with any man. Now, I hold that he presides only when he 
governs the whole assembly by his word and Spirit. Secondly in 
attributing less to councils than my opponents demand, it is not 
because I have any fear that councils are favourable to their cause 
and adverse to ours. For as we are amply provided by the word of the 
Lord with the means of proving our doctrine and overthrowing the 
whole Papacy, and thus have no great need of other aid, so, if the 
case required it, ancient councils furnish us in a great measure 
with what might be sufficient for both purposes. 
    2. Let us now proceed to the subject itself. If we consult 
Scripture on the authority of councils, there is no promise more 
remarkable than that which is contained in these words of our 
Saviour, "Where two or three are gathered together in my name, there 
am I in the midst of them." But this is just as applicable to any 
particular meeting as to an universal council. And yet the important 
part of the question does not lie here, but in the condition which 
is added, viz., that Christ will be in the midst of a council, 
provided it be assembled in his name. Wherefore, though our 
opponents should name councils of thousands of bishops it will 
little avail them; nor will they induce us to believe that they are, 
as they maintain, guided by the Holy Spirit, until they make it 
credible that they assemble in the name of Christ: since it is as 
possible for wicked and dishonest to conspire against Christ, as for 
good and honest bishops to meet together in his name. Of this we 
have a clear proof in very many of the decrees which have proceeded 
from councils. But this will be afterwards seen. At present I only 
reply in one word, that our Saviour's promise is made to those only 
who assemble in his name. How, then, is such an assembly to be 
defined? I deny that those assemble in the name of Christ who, 
disregarding his command by which he forbids anything to be added to 
the word of God or taken from it, determine everything at their own 
pleasure, who, not contented with the oracles of Scripture, that is, 
with the only rule of perfect wisdom, devise some novelty out of 
their own head, (Deut. 4: 2; Rev. 22: 18.) Certainly, since our 
Saviour has not promised to be present with all councils of whatever 
description, but has given a peculiar mark for distinguishing true 
and lawful councils from others, we ought not by any means to lose 
sight of the distinction. The covenant which God anciently made with 
the Levitical priests was to teach at his mouth, (Mal. 2: 7.) This 
he always required of the prophets, and we see also that it was the 
law given to the apostles. On those who violate this covenant God 
bestows neither the honour of the priesthood nor any authority. Let 
my opponents solve this difficulty if they would subject my faith to 
the decrees of man, without authority from the word of God. 
    3. Their idea that the truth cannot remain in the Church unless 
it exist among pastors, and that the Church herself cannot exist 
unless displayed in general councils, is very far from holding true 
if the prophets have left us a correct description of their own 
times. In the time of Isaiah there was a Church at Jerusalem which 
the Lord had not yet abandoned. But of pastors he thus speaks: "His 
watchmen are blind; they are all ignorant, they are all dumb dogs, 
they cannot bark; sleeping, lying down, loving to slumber. Yea, they 
are greedy dogs which never have enough, and they are shepherds that 
cannot understand: they all look to their own way," (Isa. 56: 10, 
11.) In the same way Hosea says, "The watchman of Ephraim was with 
my God: but the prophet is a snare of a fowler in all his ways, and 
hatred in the house of his God," (Hosea 9: 8.) Here, by ironically 
connecting them with God, he shows that the pretext of the 
priesthood was vain. There was also a Church in the time of 
Jeremiah. Let us hear what he says of pastors: "From the prophet 
even unto the priest, every one dealeth falsely." Again, "The 
prophets prophesy lies in my name: I sent them not, neither have I 
commanded them, neither spake unto them," (Jer. 6: 13; 14: 14.) And 
not to be prolix with quotations, read the whole of his thirty-third 
and fortieth chapters. Then, on the other hand, Ezekiel inveighs 
against them in no milder terms. "There is a conspiracy of her 
prophets in the midst thereof, like a roaring lion ravening the 
prey; they have devoured souls." "Her priests have violated my law, 
and profaned mine holy things," (Ezek. 22: 25, 26.) There is more to 
the same purpose. Similar complaints abound throughout the prophets; 
nothing is of more frequent recurrence. 
    4. But perhaps, though this great evil prevailed among the 
Jews, our age is exempt from it. Would that it were so; but the Holy 
Spirit declared that it would be otherwise. For Peter's words are 
clear, "But there were false prophets among the people, even as 
there shall be false teachers among you, who privily will bring in 
damnable heresies" (2 Peter 2: 1.) See how he predicts impending 
danger, not from ordinary believers, but from those who should plume 
themselves on the name of pastors and teachers. Besides, how often 
did Christ and his apostles foretell that the greatest dangers with 
which the Church was threatened would come from pastors? (Matth. 24: 
11, 24.) Nay, Paul openly declares, that Antichrist would have his 
seat in the temple of God, (2 Thess. 2: 4;) thereby intimating, that 
the fearful calamity of which he was speaking would come only from 
those who should have their seat in the Church as pastors. And in 
another passage he shows that the introduction of this great evil 
was almost at hand. For in addressing the elders of Ephesus, he 
says, "I know this, that after my departing shall grievous wolves 
enter in among you, not sparing the flock. Also of your own selves 
shall men arise, speaking perverse things, to draw away disciples 
after them," (Acts 20: 29, 30.) How great corruption might a long 
series of years introduce among pastors, when they could degenerate 
so much within so short a time? And not to fill my pages with 
details, we are reminded by the examples of almost every age, that 
the truth is not always cherished in the bosoms of pastors, and that 
the safety of the Church depends not on their state. It was becoming 
that those appointed to preserve the peace and safety of the Church 
should be its presidents and guardians; but it is one thing to 
perform what you owe, and another to owe what you do not perform. 
    5. Let no man, however, understand me as if I were desirous in 
every thing rashly and unreservedly to overthrow the authority of 
pastors. All I advise is to exercise discrimination, and not 
suppose, as a matter of course, that all who call themselves pastors 
are so in reality. But the Pope, with the whole crew of his bishops, 
for no other reason but because they are called pastors, shake off 
obedience to the word of God, invert all things, and turn them 
hither and thither at their pleasure; meanwhile, they insist that 
they cannot be destitute of the light of truth, that the Spirit of 
God perpetually resides in them, that the Church subsists in them, 
and dies with them, as if the Lord did not still inflict his 
judgements, and in the present day punish the world for its 
wickedness, in the same way in which he punished the ingratitude of 
the ancient people, namely, by smiting pastors with astonishment and 
blindness, (Zech. 12: 4.) These stupid men understand not that they 
are just chiming in with those of ancient times who warred with the 
word of God. For the enemies of Jeremiah thus set themselves against 
the truth, "Come, and let us devise devices against Jeremiah; for 
the law shall not perish from the priest, nor counsel from the wise, 
nor the word from the prophet," (Jer. 18: 18.) 
    6. Hence it is easy to reply to their allegation concerning 
general councils. It cannot be denied, that the Jews had a true 
Church under the prophets. But had a general council then been 
composed of the priests, what kind of appearance would the Church 
have had? We hear the Lord denouncing not against one or two of 
them, but the whole order: "The priests shall be astonished, and the 
prophets shall wonder," (Jer. 4: 9.) Again, "The law shall perish 
from the priest, and counsel from the ancients," (Ezek. 7: 26.) 
Again, "Therefore night shall be unto you, that ye shall not have a 
vision; and it shall be dark unto you, that ye shall not divine; and 
the sun shall go down over the prophets, and the day shall be dark 
over them," &c., (Micah 3: 6.) Now, had all men of this description 
been collected together, what spirit would have presided over their 
meeting? Of this we have a notable instance in the council which 
Ahab convened, (1 Kings 22: 6, 22.) Four hundred prophets were 
present. But because they had met with no other intention than to 
flatter the impious king, Satan is sent by the Lord to be a lying 
spirit in all their mouths. The truth is there unanimously 
condemned. Micaiah is judged a heretic, is smitten, and cast into 
prison. So was it done to Jeremiah, and so to the other prophets. 
    7. But there is one memorable example which may suffice for 
all. In the council which the priests and Pharisees assembled at 
Jerusalem against Christ, (John 11: 47,) what is wanting, in so far 
as external appearance is concerned? Had there been no Church then 
at Jerusalem, Christ would never have joined in the sacrifices and 
other ceremonies. A solemn meeting is held; the high priest 
presides; the whole sacerdotal order take their seats, and yet 
Christ is condemned, and his doctrine is put to flight. This 
atrocity proves that the Church was not at all included in that 
council. But there is no danger that any thing of the kind will 
happen with us. Who has told us so? Too much security in a matter of 
so great importance lies open to the charge of sluggishness. Nay, 
when the Spirit, by the mouth of Paul, foretells, in distinct terms, 
that a defection will take place, a defection which cannot come 
until pastors first forsake God, (2 Thess. 2: 3,) why do we 
spontaneously walk blindfold to our own destruction? Wherefore, we 
cannot on any account admit that the Church consists in a meeting of 
pastors, as to whom the Lord has no where promised that they would 
always be good, but has sometimes foretold that they would be 
wicked. When he warns us of danger, it is to make us use greater 
    8. What, then, you will say, is there no authority in the 
definitions of councils? Yes, indeed; for I do not contend that all 
councils are to be condemned, and all their acts rescinded, or, as 
it is said, made one complete erasure. But you are bringing them all 
(it will be said) under subordination, and so leaving every one at 
liberty to receive or reject the decrees of councils as he pleases. 
By no means; but whenever the decree of a council is produced, the 
first thing I would wish to be done is, to examine at what time it 
was held, on what occasion, with what intention, and who were 
present at it; next I would bring the subject discussed to the 
standard of Scripture. And this I would do in such a way, that the 
decision of the council should have its weight, and be regarded in 
the light of a prior judgement, yet not so as to prevent the 
application of the test which I have mentioned. I wish all had 
observed the method which Augustine prescribes in his Third Book 
against Maximinus, when he wished to silence the cavils of this 
heretic against the decrees of councils, "I ought not to oppose the 
Council of Nice to you, nor ought you to oppose that of Ariminum to 
me, as prejudging the question. I am not bound by the authority of 
the latter, nor you by that of the former. Let thing contend with 
thing, cause with cause, reason with reason, on the authority of 
Scripture, an authority not peculiar to either, but common to all." 
In this way, councils would be duly respected, and yet the highest 
place would be given to Scripture, every thing being brought to it 
as a test. Thus those ancient Councils of Nice, Constantinople, the 
first of Ephesus, Chalcedony, and the like, which were held for 
refuting errors, we willingly embrace, and reverence as sacred, in 
so far as relates to doctrines of faith, for they contain nothing 
but the pure and genuine interpretation of Scripture, which the holy 
Fathers with spiritual prudence adopted to crush the enemies of 
religion who had then arisen. In some later councils, also, we see 
displayed a true zeal for religion, and moreover, unequivocal marks 
of genius, learning, and prudence. But as matters usually become 
worse and worse, it is easy to see in more modern councils how much 
the Church gradually degenerated from the purity of that golden age. 
I doubt not, however that even in those more corrupt ages, councils 
had their bishops of better character. But it happened with them as 
the Roman senators of old complained in regard to their decrees. 
Opinions being numbered, not weighed, the better were obliged to 
give way to the greater number. They certainly put forth many 
impious sentiments. There is no need here to collect instances, both 
because it would be tedious, and because it has been done by others 
so carefully as not to leave much to be added. 
    9. Moreover, why should I review the contests of council with 
council? Nor is there any ground for whispering to me, that when 
councils are at variance, one or other of them is not a lawful 
council. For how shall we ascertain this? Just, if I mistake not, by 
judging from Scripture that the decrees are not orthodox. For this 
alone is the sure law of discrimination. It is now about nine 
hundred years since the Council of Constantinople, convened under 
the Emperor Leo, determined that the images set up in temples were 
to be thrown down and broken to pieces. Shortly after, the Council 
of Nice, which was assembled by Irene, through dislike of the 
former, decreed that images were to be restored. Which of the two 
councils shall we acknowledge to be lawful? The latter has usually 
prevailed, and secured a place for images in churches. But Augustine 
maintains that this could not be done without the greatest danger of 
idolatry. Epiphanies, at a later period, speaks much more harshly, 
(Epist. ad Joann. Hierosolym. et Lib. 3 contra Haeres.) For he says, 
it is an unspeakable abomination to see images in a Christian 
temple. Could those who speak thus approve of that council if they 
were alive in the present day? But if historians speak true, and we 
believe their acts, not only images themselves, but the worship of 
them, were there sanctioned. Now it is plain that this decree 
emanated from Satan. Do they not show, by corrupting and wresting 
Scripture, that they held it in derision? This I have made 
sufficiently clear in a former part of the work, (see Book 1 chap. 
11. sec. 14.) Be this as it may, we shall never be able to 
distinguish between contradictory and dissenting councils, which 
have been many, unless we weigh them all in that balance for men and 
angels, I mean, the word of God. Thus we embrace the Council of 
Chalcedony, and repudiate the second of Ephesus, because the latter 
sanctioned the impiety of Eutyches, and the former condemned it. The 
judgement of these holy men was founded on the Scriptures, and while 
we follow it, we desire that the word of God, which illuminated 
them, may now also illuminate us. Let the Romanists now go and boast 
after their manner, that the Holy Spirit is fixed and tied to their 
    10. Even in their ancient and purer councils there is something 
to be desiderated, either because the otherwise learned and prudent 
men who attended, being distracted by the business in hand, did not 
attend to many things beside; or because, occupied with grave and 
more serious measures, they winked at some of lesser moment; or 
simply because, as men, they were deceived through ignorance, or 
were sometimes carried headlong by some feeling in excess. Of this 
last case (which seems the most difficult of all to avoid) we have a 
striking example in the Council of Nice, which has been unanimously 
received, as it deserves, with the utmost veneration. For when the 
primary article of our faith was there in peril, and Arius, its 
enemy, was present, ready to engage any one in combat, and it was of 
the utmost moment that those who had come to attack Arius should be 
agreed, they nevertheless, feeling secure amid all these dangers, 
nay, as it were, forgetting their gravity, modesty, and politeness, 
laying aside the discussion which was before them, (as if they had 
met for the express purpose of gratifying Alias,) began to give way 
to intestine dissensions, and turn the pen, which should have been 
employed against Arius, against each other. Foul accusations were 
heard, libels flew up and down, and they never would have ceased 
from their contention until they had stabbed each other with mutual 
wounds, had not the Emperor Constantine interfered, and declaring 
that the investigation of their lives was a matter above his 
cognisance, repressed their intemperance by flattery rather than 
censure. In how many respects is it probable that councils, held 
subsequently to this, have erred? Nor does the fact stand in need of 
a long demonstration; any one who reads their acts will observe many 
infirmities, not to use a stronger term. 
    11. Even Leo, the Roman Pontiff, hesitates not to charge the 
Council of Chalcedony, which he admits to be orthodox in its 
doctrines, with ambition and inconsiderate rashness. He denies not 
that it was lawful, but openly maintains that it might have erred. 
Some may think me foolish in labouring to point out errors of this 
description, since my opponents admit that councils may err in 
things not necessary to salvation. My labour, however, is not 
superfluous. For although compelled, they admit this in word, yet by 
obtruding upon us the determination of all councils, in all matters 
without distinction, as the oracles of the Holy Spirit, they exact 
more than they had at the outset assumed. By thus acting what do 
they maintain, but just that councils cannot err, or if they err, it 
is unlawful for us to perceive the truth, or refuse assent to their 
errors? At the same time, all I mean to infer from what I have said 
is, that though councils, otherwise pious and holy, were governed by 
the Holy Spirit, he yet allowed them to share the lot of humanity, 
lest we should confide too much in men. This is a much better view 
than that of Gregory Nanzianzen, who says, (Ep. 55,) that he never 
saw any council end well. In asserting that all, without exception, 
ended ill, he leaves them little authority. There is no necessity 
for making separate mention of provincial councils, since it is easy 
to estimate, from the case of general councils, how much authority 
they ought to have in framing articles of faith, and deciding what 
kind of doctrine is to be received. 
    12. But our Romanists, when, in defending their cause, they see 
all rational grounds slip from beneath them, retake themselves to a 
last miserable subterfuge. Although they should be dull in intellect 
and counsel, and most depraved in heart and will, still the word of 
the Lord remains, which commands us to obey those who have the rule 
over us, (Heb. 13: 17.) Is it indeed so? What if I should deny that 
those who act thus have the rule over us? They ought not to claim 
for themselves more than Joshua had, who was both a prophet of the 
Lord and an excellent pastor. Let us then hear in what terms the 
Lord introduced him to his office. "This book of the law shall not 
depart out of thy mouth; but thou shalt meditate therein day and 
night, that thou mayest observe to do according to all that is 
written therein: for then shalt thou make thy way prosperous, and 
thou shalt have good success," (Josh. 1: 7, 8.) Our spiritual 
rulers, therefore, will be those who turn not from the law of the 
Lord to the right hand or the left. But if the doctrine of all 
pastors is to be received without hesitation, why are we so often 
and so anxiously admonished by the Lord not to give heed to false 
prophets? "Thus saith the Lord of Hosts, Hearken not unto the words 
of the prophets that prophesy unto you; they make you vain: they 
speak a vision of their own heart, and not out of the mouth of the 
Lord," (Jer. 23: 16.) Again, "Beware of false prophets, which come 
to you in sheep's clothing, but inwardly they are ravening wolves," 
(Matth. 7: 15.) In vain also would John exhort us to try the spirits 
whether they be of God, (1 John 4: 1.) From this judgement not even 
angels are exempted, (Gal. 1: 8 ,) far less Satan with his lies. And 
what is meant by the expression, "If the blind lead the blind, both 
shall fall into the ditch?" (Matth. 15: 14.) Does it not 
sufficiently declare that there is a great difference among the 
pastors who are to be heard, that all are not to be heard 
indiscriminately? Wherefore they have no ground for deterring us by 
their names in order to draw us into a participation of their 
blindness, since we see, on the contrary, that the Lord has used 
special care to guard us from allowing ourselves to be led away by 
the errors of others, whatever be the mask under which they may 
lurk. For if the answer of our Saviour is true, blind guides, 
whether high priests prelates, or pontiffs, can do nothing more than 
hurry us over the same precipice with themselves. Wherefore, }et no 
names of councils, pastors, and bishops, (which may be used on false 
pretences as well as truly,) hinder us from giving heed to the 
evidence both of words and facts, and bringing all spirits to the 
test of the divine word, that we may prove whether they are of God. 
    13. Having proved that no power was given to the Church to set 
up any new doctrine, let us now treat of the power attributed to 
them in the interpretation of Scripture. We readily admit, that when 
any doctrine is brought under discussion, there is not a better or 
surer remedy than for a council of true bishops to meet and discuss 
the controverted point. There will be much more weight in a decision 
of this kind, to which the pastors of churches have agreed in common 
after invoking the Spirit of Christ, than if each, adopting it for 
himself, should deliver it to his people, or a few individuals 
should meet in private and decide. Secondly, When bishops have 
assembled in one place, they deliberate more conveniently in common, 
fixing both the doctrine and the form of teaching it, lest diversity 
give offence. Thirdly, Paul prescribes this method of determining 
doctrine. For when he gives the power of deciding to a single 
church, he shows what the course of procedure should be in more 
important cases, namely, that the churches together are to take 
common cognisance. And the very feeling of piety tells us, that if 
any one trouble the Church with some novelty in doctrine, and the 
matter be carried so far that there is danger of a greater 
dissension, the churches should first meet, examine the question, 
and at length, after due discussion, decide according to Scripture, 
which may both put an end to doubt in the people, and stop the 
mouths of wicked and restless men, so as to prevent the matter from 
proceeding farther. Thus when Arius arose, the Council of Nice was 
convened, and by its authority both crushed the wicked attempts of 
this impious man, and restored peace to the churches which he had 
vexed and asserted the eternal divinity of Christ in opposition to 
his sacrilegious dogma. Thereafter, when Eunomius and Macedonius 
raised new disturbances, their madness was met with a similar remedy 
by the Council of Constantinople; the impiety of Nestorius was 
defeated by the Council of Ephesus. In short, this was from the 
first the usual method of preserving unity in the Church whenever 
Satan commenced his machinations. But let us remember, that all ages 
and places are not favoured with an Athanasius, a Basil, a Cyril, 
and like vindicators of sound doctrine, whom the Lord then raised 
up. Nay, let us consider what happened in the second Council of 
Ephesus when the Eutychian heresy prevailed. Flavianus, of holy 
memory, with some pious men, was driven into exile, and many similar 
crimes were committed, because, instead of the Spirit of the Lord, 
Dioscorus, a factious man, of a very bad disposition, presided. But 
the Church was not there. I admit it; for I always hold that the 
truth does not perish in the Church though it be oppressed by one 
council, but is wondrously preserved by the Lord to rise again, and 
prove victorious in his own time. I deny, however, that every 
interpretation of Scripture is true and certain which has received 
the votes of a council. 
    14. But the Romanists have another end in view when they say 
that the power of interpreting Scripture belongs to councils; and 
that without challenge. For they employ it as a pretext for giving 
the name of an interpretation of Scripture to everything which is 
determined in councils. Of purgatory, the intercession of saints, 
and auricular confession, and the like, not one syllable can be 
found in Scripture. But as all these have been sanctioned by the 
authority of the Church, or, to speak more correctly, have been 
received by opinion and practice, every one of them is to be held as 
an interpretation of Scripture. And not only so, but whatever a 
council has determined against Scripture is to have the name of an 
interpretation. Christ bids all drink of the cup which he holds 
forth in the Supper. The Council of Constance prohibited the giving 
of it to the people, and determined that the priest alone should 
drink. Though this is diametrically opposed to the institution of 
Christ, (Matth. 26: 26,) they will have it to be regarded as his 
interpretation. Paul terms the prohibition of marriage a doctrine of 
devils (1 Tim. 4: 1, 3;) and the Spirit elsewhere declares that 
"marriage is honourable in all," (Heb. 13: 4.) Having afterwards 
interdicted their priests from marriage, they insist on this as a 
true and genuine interpretation of Scripture, though nothing can be 
imagined more alien to it. Should any one venture to open his lips 
in opposition, he will be judged a heretic, since the determination 
of the Church is without challenge, and it is unlawful to have any 
doubt as to the accuracy of her interpretation. Why should I assail 
such effrontery? to point to it is to condemn it. Their dogma with 
regard to the power of approving Scripture I intentionally omit. For 
to subject the oracles of God in this way to the censure of men, and 
hold that they are sanctioned because they please men, is a 
blasphemy which deserves not to be mentioned. Besides, I have 
already touched upon it, (Book 1 chap. 7, 8, sec. 9.) I will ask 
them one questions however, If the authority of Scripture is founded 
on the approbation of the Church, will they quote the decree of a 
council to that effect? I believe they cannot. Why, then, did Arius 
allow himself to be vanquished at the Council of Nice by passages 
adduced from the Gospel of John? According to these, he was at 
liberty to repudiate them, as they had not previously been approved 
by any general council. They allege an old catalogue, which they 
call the Canon, and say that it originated in a decision of the 
Church. But I again ask, In what council was that Canon published? 
Here they must be dumb. Besides, I wish to know what they believe 
that Canon to be. For I see that the ancients are little agreed with 
regard to it. If effect is to be given to what Jerome says, (Praef. 
in Lib. Salom.) the Maccabees, Tobit, Ecclesiasticus, and the like, 
must take their place in the Apocryphal: but this they will not 
tolerate on any account.

Calvin, Institutes of the Christian Religion, Volume 4
(continued in part 11...)

file: /pub/resources/text/ipb-e/epl-09: cvin4-10.txt